World-renowned rose breeder David Austin has been de­vel­op­ing his wife’s wild gar­den into a colour­ful, scented idyll

Homes & Gardens - - CONTENTS - Words and pho­to­graphs Lynn Ked­die

Rose breeder par excellence David Austin has cre­ated a scented, colour­ful idyll in honour of his late wife.

Nes­tled at the end of a nar­row lane in Shrop­shire is one of Bri­tain’s most suc­cess­ful hor­ti­cul­tural busi­nesses, David Austin Roses. The gar­dens and nurs­ery have been here for 48 years, and ev­ery sum­mer hun­dreds of blooms burst into life, shar­ing their mag­nif­i­cent fra­grance and colours of cream to apri­cot, yel­low to deep red.

David Austin, or Mr A, as em­ploy­ees a≠ec­tion­ately call him, lives next door and, even in his nineties, is still very hands on with keep­ing the place in or­der. For the past eight years, he has been re­design­ing his pri­vate gar­den.

“My wife, Pat, used to look af­ter it, but when she passed away, I took it on,” he says. Pat, an artist, liked the gar­den to be wild. “She loved it, but I se­cretly thought it was a bit of a mess,” he re­calls with a grin.

The cou­ple moved into the house that David’s fa­ther had owned, but had never in­hab­ited, in around 1940. “It was a beau­ti­ful Queen Anne house with later ad­di­tions; it de­served a moat, so I built one,” David says. “Then I planted the V-shaped hedge and left the rest to Pat.”

The world-renowned rose expert and ex­pe­ri­enced de­signer started to ren­o­vate the gar­den with the help of Carl Ben­nett, his head rose breeder. He kept the moat and made a stilted hedge by prun­ing the lower branches of a horn­beam to o≠er new vis­tas, with yew drums added to bring struc­ture. In 2015, he planted the rose gar­den.

“I used sur­plus roses from the nurs­ery, in­clud­ing ‘Des­de­mona’, ‘But­ter­cup’ and ‘The Poet’s Wife’,” he says. “I don’t have a favourite. When I started hy­bri­dis­ing roses as

a school­boy, I wanted to bring to­gether the shape, fra­grance and growth of Old Roses and the colour and re­peat flow­er­ing of new ones. I learned by watch­ing a lupin breeder.

“My fa­ther, a farmer, was unim­pressed when I made rose breed­ing my ca­reer. Even I didn’t think the busi­ness would be­come as suc­cess­ful as it has done, though.”

On the grass path be­tween two rose beds, gaz­ing at the house, is a statue by Pat, of a lady car­ry­ing a bas­ket of duck­lings on her head, based on a woman they saw in Greece.

David’s fi­nal amend­ments were car­ried out early in 2017, with plant­ing around the for­mal pond. Low-grow­ing peren­ni­als with com­ple­men­tary colours, such as Heuchera

‘Black Beauty’, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Achil­lea ‘Moon­shine’ and Geum ‘To­tally Tan­ger­ine’, were cho­sen.

Around the edge of the gar­den, the ma­ture beds are filled with plants from his daugh­ter Claire’s nurs­ery. Here you will find peren­ni­als such as Acan­thus spinosus and

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Gi­ant’ min­gling hap­pily with Rosa ‘Olivia Rose Austin’ and R. ‘Lady of Shal­lot’.

“I’ve been at this a long time, but there al­ways seems to be more I want to do,” David says. Next on his list is a plan to open the gar­den to the pub­lic in 2018. We can­not wait.

David planted the rose gar­den in 2015, and used one of his favourite sculp­tures, by his wife, Pat, as a fo­cal point.

ABOVE LEFT A stilted horn­beam hedge makes an eye-catch­ing back­drop to one of the rose bor­ders.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM FAR LEFT The glow­ing pink blooms of Rosa ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’; R. ‘The Poet’s Wife’ has yel­low cupped flow­ers and a fruity fra­grance; re­peat flow­er­ing R. ‘Scar­bor­ough Fair’; David Austin in his gar­den.

ABOVE AND RIGHT The for­mal pond is sur­rounded by new peren­nial plant­ing, in­clud­ing heuchera, geum, gera­nium and eu­phor­bia in shades of dark pur­ple, peach and blue.

BELOW The tall spires of Acan­thus spinosus add height to the bor­der, which also fea­tures R. ‘Lady Emma Hamil­ton’.

ABOVE The ma­ture beds fea­ture blush pink Rosa ‘Wildeve’ and apri­cot-yel­low R. ‘Lady of Shalott’ com­ple­mented by pur­ple Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’.

LEFT AND BELOW Pretty pink R. ‘Princess Alexandra of Kent’ and soft yel­low R. ‘Char­lotte’ sit hap­pily along­side Al­lium

cristophii and Gera­nium x ox­o­ni­anum.

OP­PO­SITE PAGE An old wrought-iron gate leads to the moat, which David con­structed in the 1940s, but the drum yews are a re­cent ad­di­tion.

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